At least nine people, including a journalist and his family, and a foreign election observer were killed in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul on Thursday.
Deputy Interior Minister General Mohammad Ayub Salangi on Friday released details on the fatalities following the attack on the Serena hotel, the most prestigious accommodation in Kabul.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from Kabul, said the dead included at least three women and two children.
The AFP news agency said its staff reporter Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two of his three children were among those shot dead in the attack.
Another civilian killed was a former Paraguayan diplomat who was in Afghanistan as an election observer, the foreign minister of Paraguay, Eladio Loizaga, told Reuters.
However, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference the dead foreigners were from Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan and India, but made no mention of the Paraguayan.
The attackers had pretended to be guests, hid small pistols in their socks and penetrated several layers of security before carrying out the raid.
“This was supposed to be the only safe hotel in the city. It’s meant to have the tightest security. It takes a long time to get in to that hotel because of the security checks,” Al Jazeera’s reporter said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the AFP news agency.
The four young attackers entered the hotel at about 8.30pm pretending to be guests and started to attack around 9pm,” Sediq Sediqqi, the interior ministry spokesman, told reporters on Thursday.
“Two guards have been taken to hospital, as well as one foreign national employee of the hotel. All four attackers were gunned down, two of them after they resisted in a bathroom in the hotel.”
During the attack, intense bursts of gunfire erupted inside the hotel as security forces and emergency response teams rushed to the scene.
“Within 20 minutes there were Afghan special forces all over the hotel,” Al Jazeera’s reporter said.
Sediqqi said most of the hotel guests had been able to take shelter in special safe rooms.
The attack occurred on the eve of Nawroz, the Persian New Year which is a major holiday in Afghanistan, and the Serena was hosting special evening celebrations.
The Serena, a venue favoured by foreign visitors to the Afghan capital, was hit by a Taliban suicide attack in 2008 that left eight people dead.
Also on Thursday, seven Taliban suicide attackers stormed a police station in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing 10 policemen.
Meanwhile, three more people were killed on Friday during a ceremony in Kandahar to mark the new year.
Taliban fighters have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the Afghan election on April 5.